Love should try to play Ryder Cup soon

By Jason SobelMay 28, 2012, 5:30 pm

Davis Love III doesn’t need any advice. The current United States Ryder Cup captain has admirably performed every aspect of his role to date, namely, umm … suggesting to potential team members that they play well and, err… investigating specific wardrobe patterns against particular colors and, uhh … ensuring that host venue Medinah Country Club appears befitting of such status.

Yes, so far Love has done everything in his control to help the American side claim honors back from the Europeans. Which doesn’t mean much since there’s so little a captain can do to control the outcome, especially this early in the game.

Now, though, things are about to get real.

It’s time for the captain to read the fine print. It’s time for him to find a loophole, some language in the Ryder Cup contract which grants absolute power to the home team and allows it to move up the proceedings by four months.

If not, he should petition the PGA of America and appeal to the European Tour. Whatever it takes to change the dates of the festivities from Sept. 28-30 to ASAP.

That’s right. Love’s bugs need to play this thing, like, tomorrow – if not sooner. Round up the private jets, collect the 12 best candidates and get 'em to Chicago. Call up European counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal and tell him it’s now or never – or as U.S. team member Rickie Fowler would tweet: “Go time!”

The way the U.S. players are playing, Love needs to strike while the irons – and especially the putters – are hot.

Check out what your fellow Americans have accomplished recently, and you’ll understand the need for speed when it comes to moving this thing up.

Fowler hasn’t finished outside of the top five in a month, with a results table that includes his first career PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow. Jason Dufner has looked like the second coming of Ben Hogan – or least a young David Duval – in claiming his first two titles and nearly grabbing a third on Sunday. Zach Johnson was the beneficiary of Dufner’s luck running out, finally breaking through at Colonial after two runner-up finishes in his previous three starts. Matt Kuchar took The Players Championship in convincing fashion, turning his celebrated consistency into the biggest win of his career.

What does each member of this foursome have in common? If the Ryder Cup were being contested today, they would own four of the eight automatic roster spots.

It’s not as if the other guys are stone cold, either.

The remaining four spots would be filled by a Masters champion (Bubba Watson), another recent major winner (Keegan Bradley), the only other two-time titleholder this year (Hunter Mahan) and a recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee (Phil Mickelson).

That’s a whole lotta talent for Love to love – and the well doesn’t exactly dry up after those top eight qualifiers.

The next eight on the current points list – Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Ben Curtis, Johnson Wagner, Kyle Stanley and Mark Wilson – have each won a Tour event already in the year’s first five months, giving the captain plenty of ammo for his four wild-card selections.

All of which leads to one prevailing notion: The team will never be hotter than it is right now.

Granted, that only increases the U.S. chances by mere percentage points. As we’ve often witnessed over the years, the hotter team on paper hardly owns much of an advantage once the first balls are in the air at this biennial grindfest, but even the smallest advantage is still an advantage.

After all, it’s not as if the best Europeans have spent the season looking uncontrollably like 18-handicappers. Luke Donald is fresh off another major – if not “major” – victory at the Euro flagship event that once again elevated him to No. 1 in the world. Prior to missing his last two cuts, Rory McIlroy was looking like a world-beater in every sense of the term. And from Lee Westwood to Graeme McDowell to Paul Lawrie to Justin Rose, plenty of other potential team members are also rounding into form.

If you had to pick a favorite, though, right this very second, on paper, based on recent performance, the advantage – albeit a slight one – would go to the red, white and blue. Or lilac, should Love choose to follow previous captain Corey Pavin’s color scheme. Whatever the case, it’s an advantage which may not linger much longer, so Love needs to pounce when the time is right.

Forget that the stage isn’t ready, and the wardrobes haven’t been decided, and there will be scheduling conflicts and complete confusion for everybody who had the last week of September circled on a calendar.

Love may never own a greater advantage over his opponent than he does right now. Without finding a loophole to move up the competition by four months, that advantage may wither as time goes on.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.